Area projects receive total of $132,930 in GOCO funding

The Daily Sentinel, December 11, 2021—Trail-building, watershed restoration and riverside improvements will occur locally thanks to a combined $132,930 in conservation service corps grants awarded to four projects in Mesa County.

The Great Outdoors Colorado board approved the grants Thursday, as part of more than $6 million in new funding to support 38 projects across the state focused on things such as land acquisition and stewardship, planning efforts and community access to the outdoors and planning efforts. The money comes from Colorado Lottery revenues.

The Mesa County grants are part of GOCO’s conservation service corps program, a partnership between GOCO and the Colorado Youth Corps Association. CYCA represents a coalition of eight accredited corps in Colorado that train youth, young adults and veterans to work on land and water conservation projects, GOCO said in a news release. Corps members earn a stipend and an AmeriCorps education award to use toward college or reducing existing student loans.

Colorado West Land Trust was awarded money for watershed restoration and habitat enhancement projects at Piñon Mesa. Mesa County was awarded one grant for trail work at the North Fruita Desert Special Recreation Management Area and another grant for tamarisk removal and riverside restoration work along the Dolores River. The town of Palisade will use its grant to continue restoring Riverbend Park.

Colorado West Land Trust will use its $53,760 grant to employ a Western Colorado Conservation Corps crew for six weeks of work on the Headwaters Restoration Project at Piñon Mesa. This project is a multi-year collaboration between partners also including Mountain Island Ranch, Trout Unlimited, the Bureau of Land Management, Colorado Parks and Wildlife and RiversEdge West that focuses on landscape-level, watershed restoration and habitat enhancement on conserved properties and BLM lands, GOCO said.

Crews will install water-related structures in meadows and stream corridors, remove fencing and invasive vegetation, and stimulate aspen growth among other tasks, GOCO said in the release.

The project will improve the quality and amount of water delivered to the Colorado River, contribute to invasive vegetation control efforts and enhance wildlife habitat, including for the Gunnison sage-grouse, federally listed as a threatened species.

The new grant complements almost $400,000 the Colorado West Land Trust already has received in grant funding for watershed restoration it is spearheading in the Piñon Mesa/Little Dolores River area in an effort to make the landscape more resilient in the face of extended drought and climate change.

According to GOCO, with the help of $31,920 in GOCO funds, Mesa County Public Health will employ a Western Colorado Conservation Corps crew for four weeks to build four miles of trail at the North Fruita Desert management area administered by the BLM. The crew will receive training and support from the city of Fruita, the BLM, the Colorado Plateau Mountain Bike Association and Mesa County Public Health.

Mesa County Noxious Weed and Pest Management will use a $28,350 grant to hire chainsaw crews from WCCC for three weeks of work to conduct four acres of tamarisk removal and 16.5 acres of tamarisk treatments along the Dolores River.

Tamarisk is an invasive plant common along area waterways. Crews will reduce tamarisk contributing to channel narrowing in the river, which will improve habitat and floodplain connectivity and reduce fire fuels, GOCO said.

It said the project will be conducted by the Dolores River Restoration partnership with leadership from Mesa County, RiversEdge West, the BLM and the Southwest Conservation Corps.

Lastly, the town of Palisade and partners from the Desert Rivers Collaborative and RiversEdge West will use an $18,900 grant to hire a Western Colorado Conservation Corps crew for two weeks to continue removing tamarisk and Russian olive trees from Riverbend Park along the Colorado River.

The density of tamarisk and Russian olive growth poses a potential wildfire risk, inhibits river access and crowds out native vegetation along the river.

The project will build on work undertaken by the town and WCCC last year.

Among other grants announced this week, the city of Ouray received $100,000 to help it address its water shortage, Gunnison County received $150,000 through GOCO’s fellowship program that prepares young people for careers in the outdoors, and the trail-work group Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers received nearly $300,000 in support of its efforts in the Roaring Fork Valley area.

Article by Dennis Webb

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